By Tim Chambers
ELIZABETHTON—Winning ugly was never more beautiful than Friday night inside of Treadway Gymnasium. Bud Icenhour sank one of two free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining, allowing Johnson County to escape with a 50-49 win over Elizabethton.
Things didn’t look good for the Longhorns in the final minute after watching their fourth quarter lead vanish. Eric Wilson triggered an 8-0 run that pushed ‘Betsy in front 49-45 with 1:35 remaining in the game.
Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood agreed his team could have folded at that point but found a way to win despite not playing their best basketball.
“We feel fortunate to get out of here with a conference win,” said Atwood. “We started the game out well and got a double-digit lead. Bud hit some big shots early, but we made some mistakes and didn’t play well after that. We got away from what we were doing and they had a lot to do with it. We allowed them to hang around and it almost cost us at the end. We had been putting teams away when we had the chance, but tonight we couldn’t do it. You learn from everything you do, so we’ll learn from this.”
The Horns needed a spark at that point and Jordan Edes-King was there to ignite it. He slashed inside the paint for a basket that got them within two; then Blake Atwood tied it by sinking two free throws with 55 seconds remaining.
Elizabethton had an opportunity to hold the ball for the final shot but the Longhorns’ defense forced a turnover with 38 seconds remaining. Johnson County controlled the basketball until Icenhour was fouled.
He hit the first charity toss that proved to be the game winner.
Smart play pays off in the final seconds
The Longhorns had two fouls to give before Elizabethton was in the bonus. They used those fouls wisely, forcing the Cyclones to inbound the ball 75 feet away with 4.7 seconds remaining.
Wilson drove the court and launched an off-balanced desperation shot that was well off the mark, allowing the Longhorns to escape with the victory.
The Longhorn scored the game’s first five points on a deuce by Sean Lewis and a three-ball from Icenhour. They extended that to 15-3 only to see the Cyclones reel off 10 consecutive points that got them within two at 15-13.
The half continued to be one of runs.
Johnson County surged to a 24-13 advantage, getting a three-ball by Icenhour and two jumpers from Atwood that capped off a 9-0 run. Elizabethton closed the half on a 10-3 run that left them trailing 27-23 at intermission.
Hard luck Cyclones hang in there
The Cyclones outscored Johnson County 14-10 in the third quarter to knot the game at 37-all heading into the final quarter. It was a gutsy performance by ‘Betsy who suffered some misfortunes before the season began.
Corey Russell who had started at guard for two seasons decided not to play after football ended. Carter Everett, the team’s tallest player, was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered in their last football game.
Icenhour led the Longhorns with 13 points including four treys. Atwood added 12 points. Lewis and Edes-King each contributed seven. Nathan Arnold led the team in rebounding with eight.
Perhaps the biggest spark came from Zack Eller. The sharp-shooting guard scored eight points including two treys. He was 3-of-4 from the field.
Troy Arnold collected four rebounds and did some valuable dirty work in the paint. He scored two points and altered a couple of shots. Lewis led the defense with three steals.
Wilson scored a game high 17 points for Elizabethton. Even Perkins added a dozen. Parker Hughes and Nico Ashley provided nine apiece.
This was the Three Rivers Conference opener for both teams. The Longhorns played Dobyns-Bennett for the first time ever inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium on Tuesday. They will fly to Colorado on Thursday to take part in the Steamboat Classic for three days.
Johnson County 50, Elizabethton 49
JOHNSON COUNTY (50)
Icenhour 13, Atwood 12, Lewis 7, Edes-King 7, N. Arnold 1, Eller 8, T. Arnold 2.
Wilson 17, Perkins 12, Hughes 9, Ashley 9, Cornett 2
Johnson Co. 15 12 10 13 — 50
Elizabethton 13 10 14 12 — 49
3-point goals—JC 6 (Icenhour 4, Eller 2) Eliz 5 (Perkins 3, Wilson, Ashley)